ENGAGE Reflections: The Top 3 Ways to Use Social to Extend Your Church’s Reach

ENGAGE Conference 2019 was a huge hit. As we have been reflecting and processing all of the incredible information from those 30+ speakers, we are still learning so much about how we can be supporting church leaders as they seek to connect with their communities.

We had one particular topic that seemed to spark the most conversation and questions following the sessions: Social Media. I’m sure this surprises no one. Social Media has this funny way of drawing us in and repelling us all in the same minute. It seems to be constantly changing and difficult to do well. However, we got some pretty incredible takeaways around this topic from more than 7 different speakers.

Here are the top 3 things we learned from ENGAGE Conference that churches can do to use social to reach more people…

Change Our Mindset Around Social

One theme I heard from almost all of the speakers who taught on the topic of Social was this, “If people are on social, your church needs to be on social.” I love how Chris Abbott said it in his session, “If there was a town square where everyone spent at least 20 minutes every day, you would post up there all day inviting people to church. Well, it exists. It’s Facebook.” People are finding connection on social media, and if we aren’t there at all, we are missing a huge opportunity to be part of the conversations and considerations of the people outside of our church’s 4 walls.

Nona Jones put it so well in her session as well, “40% of Americans attend church on the weekends, but the actual logged amount is closer to 20%. Thousands and thousands of people are looking for an online church experience. So, if we aren’t online, we are missing 80% of people.” She goes on to explain that church isn’t just a place, it’s a people. She challenges listeners, “Let’s make disciples in digital contexts. Let’s shift our thinking about what’s possible when we think about social media as a ministry tool.”

Chris Abbott made an interesting point about the significance of being on social.  He learned from social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuk (disclaimer if you look this guy up, his language is colorful) that, “the currency of the world is attention; If we don’t adjust to the reality of our situation, we will become irrelevant.” I think he’s right.

People have so many things vying for their attention. Time is our scarcest commodity and if we aren’t getting peoples’ attention, we aren’t reaching people. Unfortunately, the days of a family driving through their neighborhood, spotting a church, and trying it out, are gone. Chris Abbott goes on to say, “The church is perfectly equipped to reach a world that doesn’t exist anymore; the gospel doesn’t change, but our methods to reach people with it is constantly changing.”

So, social isn’t optional. That’s how I felt after hearing these sessions. And as I chew on that and process what that looks like at my church, one more point hit me hard.  

Ryan Wakefield challenges churches to look at Social Media, and digital marketing in general, as “a new way to get out and start new relationships with your community.” It’s another arm of missions. And as such, needs to be funded. “We can’t say lets do missions and not fund it; so we can’t do the opposite when it comes to local and digital missions. We need to be budgeting for our marketing efforts; it’s outreach”. - Ryan Wakefield

Be Both Relevant and Robotic

This was a takeaway I found so helpful as it relates to content. I think most people in charge of social media at their church eventually run into the issue of “What do I post? When do I post? How often do I post?” Seth Muse shed a lot of light on this topic for me in his session. Before I dive into recapping that, though, one thing I had to settle with is there’s no one size fits all approach. As much as I wish I could copy and paste exactly what Seth or any other Creative Director is doing at his/her church, the tools presented are to help you and I build what fits for the specific needs and characteristics of our community.

One of Seth’s main points was to choose one social platform and get really good at it before moving on to another one. Spend some time figuring out where your people are, what they’re looking at, where you can make the most impact, and start there. When in doubt, I think Facebook is a safe place to start. I think the statistic is something close to a quarter of the entire world’s population is on Facebook; that’s a pretty good reach if you ask me :)

In his session, Seth Muse talks at length about the value of a content calendar.  This is a super effective way to make sure that your social platform stays active and relevant, but also doesn’t burn you out. He recommended a few scheduling tools, like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social to name a few. However, you can also schedule within Facebook itself for example, or you can put your posts in your google calendar and then go and post them live when they’re scheduled. Your budget and desired social schedule will dictate those decisions, but it’s great to have the options! This is where the concept of being robotic comes from. It’s okay to schedule this stuff out! Even the biggest lovers of social don’t want to sit there all day every day, especially when your plate is full of about 1,000 other things you need to do.



As you can see from his calendar, Seth does a good variety of story stelling, promotion, highlights, and information. He recommends using sermon clips, quotes, song lyrics or actual footage of singing/worship at your church. Ask questions all the time. On Sundays, document what’s going on and create some FOMO for anyone who’s not there. My favorite piece of advice from his session is “don’t stress about everything being perfect or going viral; people like authenticity and “raw” posts.”

To this point, don’t let your schedule be the ultimate dictator of your content. Seth explains, “People want to be entertained, informed, inspired. Keep your finger on the pulse of what people want so you can put out content that people want.” There are going to be days where you have to punt the schedule and react to something that’s happened in your community, or talk through something really powerful in your church, or maybe God just lays something on your heart to share on a Tuesday morning. The combination of the two will show people there is a genuine community behind all those posts and that will draw them in.

I’ll wrap up this point with Seth’s 3 tips for content on Social...

- Create conversations not conversions
- Content value not production value
- Strive to inspire not inform.

Maximize Facebook’s Benefits

Our third and final tip is all about Facebook! A handful of our speakers shared some really powerful insight into how to use Facebook well and maximize your reach with this platform. To start out, we are going to look at Facebook Groups and Units...

Groups & Units: Katie Allred and Nona Jones give some great insight into using Facebook Groups and Units. They both describe your actual Facebook page to a front porch or door, a picture of what it might be like inside, but nothing intimate. A Facebook Group allows you to open up the door and invite people into the living room, the kitchen, the playroom, etc.

Groups are where the interaction and actual relationship building can happen. They allow people to be “seen,” especially if your church is experiencing growth.

An interesting concept presented in both of these sessions was having groups for all kinds of special interests or stages of life. Facebook doesn’t limit how many groups a page can have, so you can have a group for each of your small group’s, all of your ministries, a young mom’s group, a men’s group, a parent’s of teenagers group, an empty nester’s group, and the list goes on. These groups help cultivate real relationships outside of the couple hours people have together on Sunday morning.

This is also an opportunity, though, to connect more people to your church’s page. You can share things from your church’s page into the group, you can do follow up questions from the sermon, send invites for an event coming up, or even ask people to go like the page! A group provides that more intimate setting and the reach of a group isn’t censored like a page’s is because it’s helping people connect with people; Facebook likes that.

One tool Nona Jones recommends using with groups is called “units.” These are a tool for sequential learning within groups. For example, if you are doing discussion questions or a sermon series, you can organize those posts within a unit so people can keep track of what they’ve completed, go back and re-read, etc.

Facebook Ads: Richy Hirtle and Andrew Riis run a marketing agency and have become experts at using Facebook Ads with churches. With organic reach on Facebook closer to 1%, ads have become an incredibly effective way to market an event or your church in general on Facebook.  

Andrew and Richy have found Facebook ads to be the most cost effective way to get a message in front of a large audience, as compared to direct mail, radio, and google ads. And while there needs to be some intentionality behind the ads, you don’t have to be a Facebook Ads master to run a successful campaign.

They recommend the process going something like this…

1. Set Your Goal & Build Creative: Reverse Engineer the process as they call it, so you know exactly what you’re working toward.
2. Define Your Audience: define your radius, age, men and women, no interest targeting (Facebook already has it).
3. Split Test Your Creative: put two ads up with everything the same except the image; 48 hours later look at your metrics and see which image performed the best.
4. Run your campaign!

The Facebook pixel: One of the most loved tools with Facebook is the ability to retarget people who visit your website and this is what allows that to happen.

According to Facebook… “The Facebook pixel is a piece of code that's placed on your website to report conversions, build audiences and get insights about how people are using your website.” Click here for help with installing the Facebook pixel on your website.

This allows you to show your ads to people who have shown interest in your ad or website. Maybe they haven’t clicked or signed up, but they’ve viewed, so you can continue to show them ads related to the same content in hopes that it will trigger a click.

Here are some benefits of using the pixel…

- You can retarget people who have just been to your homepage with video ads about your church community or culture trying to create “brand” awareness.
- You can retarget people who have been to your event sign-up page, but didn’t complete their registration with an ad specifically about all the benefits of going to that event.
- Your ability to include and exclude people based on their activity on your website is so powerful in being able to show the right ads and messages to the right people. So, you only spend ad dollars on people who are interested in the ad you are showing them. That makes for a better user experience and increased engagement with your ads, which is a win-win-win situation!

Here’s an image of a pixel helper, which is a Google Chrome extension that can be installed to give you details on whether or not your pixel is working on your website.



Kenny Jahng gave an extremely helpful presentation on Facebook pixels. He explained that Facebook, due to basically zero organic reach, is now a pay to play environment. Knowing that, pixels can help in 3 critical ways…

1. Retargeting Custom Audiences: it takes 7-11 impressions before someone takes your CTA into consideration. The click through rate for an ad is less than 1%, but increases 10 times when it is retargeted. You don’t get charged for how often someone sees your ad, only when they click.
2. Track Conversions/use data for your benefit: retargeted visitors are 70% more likely to convert.
3. Find lookalike audiences: install the pixel and run ads. This allows you to “clone” those people who clicked and follow your CTA across the database and gives you people with the same behaviors/relationships/etc.

Conclusion

Take it from the experts; there is power in using social media to extend your church’s reach.  We learned so much from these individuals who are seeing success and connectivity with these strategies every day! Remember, when it comes to social…

1. Change Your Mindset About Social
2. Be Both Relevant & Robotic
3. Maximize Facebook’s Benefits

And see how your community will be impacted!  What is your best Social Media tip?